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The Sweet Water Warblers (from left): Rachael Davis, May Erlewine, and Lindsay Lou. They’ll perform at 7:30 Friday night at the MSU Community School of Music (4930 South Hagadorn Road) as part of the Ten Pound Fiddle concert series.
To call the Sweet Water Warblers a supergroup — a trio made up of Michigan songbirds Lindsay Lou, May Erlewine, and Rachael Davis — would be more than an understatement. All three are accomplished singer-songwriters in their own right, having cut their teeth in the Americana, indie-folk circuits. Between the three of them, all have released a bevy of albums, primarily as a part of the Michigan-based Earthwork Music Collective.
Although the idea to perform together rarely was part of their conversation, it only seemed natural that it would eventually happen.
Lindsay Lou has quickly become a favorite on the festival circuit having recently jammed at Phil Lesh’s (Grateful Dead) Terrapin Crossroads in restaurant and concert space in San Rafael, Calif., while Erlewine just released a new album, “Second Sight,” and continues to perform both as a solo act and as a part of her dance-boogie band, The Motivations. Davis, who resides in Nashville with husband Dominic John Davis (Steppin’ In It and Jack White), also performs regularly both in Michigan and around the country.
Despite hectic schedules, the Warblers still find time to make recording and performing together a priority. The trio recently wrapped up recording for their first proper full-length release, “The Dream That Holds This Child,” which is a follow-up to their EP, “With You.”
“With You” was recorded in 2016 and released in 2017.
“It can be a challenge for us to find time to rehearse and record with our individual schedules being so busy, but we all agree that this is something very fulfilling and special and it’s something we’re all passionate about, so we figure out how to make time for it,” Davis said. “It is a meticulous process coordinating all our schedules. But this project is so special to each of us, that we are intentional with carving out time for it. Sometimes it’s more difficult than others, but we all have and understanding of the others schedules.”
There is currently a Kickstarter under way for the new album, which is slated to be released later this year.
The genesis of the group started at the 2014 Hoxeyville Music Festival in Wellston, Mich., when one of the presenters suggested the three should collaborate and perform a set on the main stage.
The trio’s first performance was supposed to be a one-off show, but after the first verse of the first song, the three decided something special was there.
“We all are fans of one another so, of course, we agreed to do it. We weren’t going to be all together until the day of our set, so rehearsals consisted of taking about an hour to compile a list of songs that we all already knew and picking parts,” Davis said. “After our set that day, we talked about doing it some more and the rest is history.”
Onstage, the group’s three-part vocal harmonies shine, and instruments are swapped back and forth among them, keeping audiences on their toes.
According to Davis, the rapport they share is what makes the Warblers so unique.
“I think that we all agree that the thing that makes the Warblers different is the female dynamic that we have,” Davis said. “Being women in an industry that’s dominated by men, and all of us in our solo projects are always on the road with predominantly male bands. It’s a breath of fresh air to come to this group where our dynamic is so peaceful and balanced.”
Together in tune
“The Dream That Holds This Child” was recorded in Nashville, with a bevy of who’s who in the indie-folk music community, which according to Davis, is what makes this record so special.
“For me, this was the most positive musical experience I’ve ever had, of any kind,” Davis said. “Not just recording, like of any experience. It was fun, satisfying and empowering. Pretty much the best.”
For Davis, she’s hoping this new album gives people a sense of hope, while serving as a beacon of light in what some might describe as dark times. Finding the proper amount of time to develop the songs.
“We’ve discovered through trial and error that our most productive way of writing together is to block off a few days where we can all convene in the same location and write together,” Davis said. “As songwriters, I think what we’re creating at any given time is a reflection of what we’re experiencing, or what we’ve witnessed others experiencing. So, it isn’t a wonder that the theme bloomed as it did. We center ourselves around the power of the sacred feminine and the mother and in a time when people are desperately looking for sanctuary and nurturing, we take it seriously that some might find comfort in what we create.”
Retreating from solo records, families, and tours is no easy task for the trio. But the group has found some time for the Warblers to go on a mini-Valentine’s Day tour to help spread the love around, which includes stops in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, in addition to East Lansing.
Full-scale tour planned for fall
For Davis, the Warblers’ mini-tours are a labor of love, and something she’s always looking forward to. She’s also looking forward to eventually launching a full-scale tour with the band, which is slated to happen next summer.
“We joke that being on tour together is like a perpetual bachelorette party,” Davis said. “We all have so much fun together and get closer every time we take a road trip together. We share a booking and management team with Lindsay Lou’s solo project, which makes scheduling easier since it’s all coming out of the same office.”
More shows are on the horizon for the Warblers in 2020, but for right now, Davis is just embracing all of the magnificent feelings she gets being a part of the trio.
“There are too many wonderful things about being a Warbler to put in a short answer,” Davis said. “I think something that sums up a lot of it is the sisterhood and camaraderie that we cultivate together. We’re planning on touring in the fall of 2020 with the new record. We’re looking at East Coast, Midwest, Colorado and Southwest region and Pacific Northwest.”
The show at the Ten Pound Fiddle is a homecoming of sorts, as both Lou and Davis spent much of their formative years in the Lansing and East Lansing areas.
“I was born in Lansing, my parents were Spartans and some of my first concert-going experiences were being an infant at Ten Pound Fiddle concerts and contra dances,” Davis said. “Lindsay used to live on Foster Street in Lansing, directly nextdoor to the house my dad lived in when he met my mom. But, aside from the personal history, it’s just an honor to be able to play what has become a Michigan musical institution.”
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